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Kimberly Dawson of the Pimps of Joytime. Photo by Scott Cunningham
Kimberly Dawson of the Pimps of Joytime. Photo by Scott Cunningham
07/03/2017

Day 3 wrap up: 2017 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival

BY SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // All the sights and sounds from Day 3

Sunday rolled around bright and clear for the third day of the 2017 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. Have I mentioned yet that this is the 30th Anniversary? Quite an accomplishment.

Since it was Sunday, that means it was a great time for some gospel, right?

The Sons of Soul Revivers threw down an old-fashioned revival on the First Tech Blues Stage that had the crowd dancing, waving their arms, and feeling, well, revived.

They've been around a long time and are similar to the Blind Boys of Alabama. Having seen both, I think I can say that I enjoy SSR over the Blind Boys in a live context. Both are terrific, but overall SSR has a much more upbeat tone. They're out with a new live CD recorded at Rancho Nicasio in California, a bucket list destination for music fans. I've cued them up on my favorite streaming service and will take a closer listen.

No sooner had I sat down to write up my SSR notes, the screeching blues guitar of Dexter Allen wafted across the bowl from the Brewery Stage. I packed up my pen (old school, I know) and tromped over to the south side to check him out.

Dexter Allen

And, man, am I glad I did. Electrifying is the only word that can adequately describe his set. Backed with organ, bass, and spot-on drum work, Allen was mesmerizing and his stroll out through the crowd was delightful to witness. His version of Use Me from Bill Withers was over the top.

Let me be the fist to say it certainly felt great getting bluesed up by him.

King Louie's Blues Review featuring LaRhonda Steele, Andy Stokes, and Lisa Mann dialed it in quite fashionably back over at the First Tech Blues Stage with a solid performance fronted with the vocals of those three.

King Louie, of course, is local B3 organ master Louis Pain. I'm not sure there's anything he can't do with an organ and he laid down some very soulful lines, making it feel as much as a soul review as a blues review.

Andy Stokes and Lisa Mann

Ever since a publicist friend turned my onto the Pimps of Joytime two years ago, I've been a huge fan and supporter of their music. Out of Brooklyn, they've managed to fuse up tempo funk, modern R&B, Afro-Cuban, and hip-hop into a one of a kind mixture. Not an easy task, but one they pull off remarkably well.

Their 5:00PM set was as good as I've heard them. Fronted by Brian Jay, the band was in excellent form. They got more people dancing and moving in the crowd than any act I've seen so far with music that has a groove designed to make you move.

Jay's guitar work is a rare funky lead-rhythm combo that comes at ya front and center. He has surrounded himself with two excellent side-vocalists: Mayteana Morales and Kimberly Dawson. The pair also have some sweet dance moves in addition to their incredible vocal talents.

Brian Jay from Pimps of Joytime

Portland sax player Steve Berlin came out late in the set to throw in some tenor horn, which is always a good thing. Berlin, by the way, produced the band's latest album "Third Wall Chronicles". It is well worth a listen.

Discovery is one of the great joys of music festivals and as we rolled into the 7:00PM hour, Blynd jumped out and grabbed my ears. After dinner I was planning on spending some down time before a late night, but found myself pulled back across the bowl to the Brewery Stage.

Blynd is one of those bands that falls into the cracks between multiple genres. About the best description I can jot down is to say the overall sound is blues, but is heavily influenced by reggae and Caribbean beats and rhythm. I was surprised to find they are out of Arizona, my guess for such a combination would have been Austin. Their set was at time laid back and smooth and at others was legit powerhouse blues. I'll certainly be diving deeply into their catalog.

If Marvel Comics ever creates a series centered on musicians, I'm certain that they would look toward Sonny Landreth for the superhero possessing slide guitar powers. Look! Laser beams deflected by his glass slide! He's that good.

Sonny Landreth

He started out his set with an acoustic guitar, playing with a softer touch at first, as if to get warmed up. Once he got going, though, shakes alive. He showed why he's one of the best slide players around today. His set dug deep into his catalog and even tapped into some classics like Elmore James. Although his vocals aren't quite what they used to be, he's the one genuine guitar hero at this year's fest and his set was everything I hoped it would be.

Galactic! The iconic New Orleans funk jam-band took to the Brewery Stage to round out the day's music for the bowl. I, and many in the crowd, would be thrilled if they played here monthly. I caught them at the Crystal back in the winter and they are just as good in a club setting as they are at a fest.

I also caught them, along with Pimps of Joytime, at the late show over at the Marriott. Both bands dialed in terrific hour-long sets there and my only gripe is that they couldn't play until the wee hours.

As it was, I didn't leave the hotel until 3:00AM this morning because everyone was having such a great time.

Sonny Landreth on the big screen at the 2017 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival

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